To mark a century since the birth of the late Adelaide-born artist, the National Gallery of Australia is showing 125 of his works

One reason Jeffrey Smart paintings have gone up in price is because that’s what happens when there’s a big show, such as the one at the National Gallery of Australia celebrating 100 years since the late artist’s birth. Another reason is love. Specifically, how the love for Smart’s paintings stays unrequited because it’s never wholly fulfilled.

“I’ve really noticed with this show that private collectors hold on very closely, it’s been a bit of a wrench,” says the exhibition’s co-curator Deborah Hart. “A lot of people really love them and maybe that’s got to do with their open-endedness. I imagine if you lived with [a Smart painting] you’d keep seeing things a little bit differently in the work.” Or, as the exhibition’s second curator, Rebecca Edwards, writes in her catalogue essay: “Smart’s work is an inscrutable and open-ended riddle.”

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